“Time is what keeps the light from reaching us. There is no greater obstacle to God than time: and not only time but temporalities, not only temporal things but temporal affections, not only temporal affections but the very taint and smell of time.” - Meister Eckhart
Our daily life is full of time. We are surrounded by time from getting up in the morning until checking the alarm clock in the evening. At work there are appointments and pressing deadlines. The news come at every full hour. By splitting our mental attention in such a way there is always the possiblity to get stuck in time. Then we take our attention away from the present moment and we lose ourselves by thinking in time.
But being fully in the present moment (or as Eckhart Tolle calls it The Now) is the key to spiritual awakening, or to say the least, to live a happier and more liberated life. So how can we balance the fact that we have to use time so often and also stay more present?
The Use of Clock Time
Any use of clock time for practical and useful purposes is absolutely necessary and helpful. This includes nearly all activities that need time as appointments, schedules etc. Even goals with a deadline are in the area of clock time. If we look at it closely, if we want to create something to until certain date, we set a deadline so that everything we do will be ready then. We create a plan to meet the deadline and then execute it. Maybe we have to rearrange the deadline, but the use of time here is no problem. This means, we can be fully present – have our attention in the present moment – by doing this.
As I wrote in the previous post, ultimately time is only an illusion and it’s only use is for practical matters.
What is Psychological Time?
On the contrary psychological time is something very different. It always occurs if we dwell on a situation mentally, then we drop out of the present moment. If we set a goal, using clock time as described above, we can work towards it in the present moment and be present while doing so. But when we start projecting ourselves constantly into the future (or past) and live there in the mind, we become unsatisfied with what is and dismiss the present moment. It becomes a means to the end and we want to be at the end.
This happened to me when I started my company in great length. I was constantly frustrated and unhappy with what I had, since I always projected myself into my own vision and I wanted to be there. But exactly this is a huge mistake if we want to live fully. If we have a goal and we see a vision of something we want to improve, that is wonderful. And this is a source for personal growth. But it is even more important to stay present and say “Yes” to the present moment and don’t get so dissatisfied with it, that we deny it and say “No” to it.
I now do it differently: yes, I want to create a different situation in the future and this vision is what drives me. But as soon as I have declared the goal and set a deadline, my awareness is in the present moment working towards the goal and being happy with what is. The whole perception of what is changes without losing the ability to create what I want.
What happens if we are in Psychological Time
If we create this psychological time, we get trapped in our mind. It happens that we create a problem out of a situation and the mind won’t let go of it. This is really not a small thing, it happens constantly. For instance if you watch the news and you see something terrible, did it happen to you that you could not let go of it for several minutes or even hours? It burdens you, although there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Funny enough there are a lot of very pleasant things going on right now, but the news showed exactly the very bad thing and the mind could get trapped in it.
Now this scenario may not happen to you if you have a certain control over your mind, but let’s shift to a more personal situation, maybe you could lose money, your job or even a person. Now it is much harder to stay present and not to lose yourself in the “problem” and thinking constantly over it.
This is the real source if we suffer over a “problem”, not the situation itself, but the interpretation and then thinking over and over it. If we can do something about it then fine, we do it now. If we can’t, then we leave the situation or we accept it. There is never a reason to dwell on the situation and by that create a problem in our mind.
Psychological time is the reason that we lose the present moment and get trapped in the “problem”. Often there is really nothing to do at this very moment, so it is not useful to even think about the “problem”. Of course I’m not talking about ignoring a situation or not thinking to find a solution to a challenge. I’m talking about the unnecessary time we spend thinking a situation over and over and can’t let go of it. The first is in the realm of clock time, the later in the realm of psychological time.
The key is to use Clock Time AND to stay present
If we become able to see a situation not as a problem but as something that comes to the present moment and will be handled (only) then, we also become able to stay present. By setting goals and fulfilling own visions we still are able to create the environment we desire. But even then there is no reason to leave the present moment with our mind. The key here is to see our vision in the present moment.
The future always depends on the quality of our present moment. The present moment is of quality if we are fully present.
So from my point of view it is totally achievable and advisable to reduce the amount of such psychological time, where we are in the memories of past or in the projection of the future, to a minimum. It takes some practice and the willingness to stay in the present moment, but it enables us to dissolve a lot of so-called problems that only become such if we dwell on them.